Some things are beginning to coalesce in my brain - things that have been rolling around up there just bumping into one another and caroming off another wall or getting wedged into a dark corner with other marbles, yarn scraps, and bits of lint. Well, I never claimed my brain is a tidy place! Anyway, I had two experiences today that started to pull some of those stray thoughts out of the corners and away from the walls to the center of a place where they can begin to interact.
I have become more and more aware of my restlessness with traditional quilt patterns of late. There are many I still wish to make, but I want to infuse the traditional with my own perspective. Using quilts to tell a story is something I've been experimenting with for a while, but now the notion of using quilting in a more poetic way where the reader (or the viewer) can plug in her own interpretation in intriguing me more and more.
This fragmentary, elusive wisp of an idea started to settle in today as I was asked to help a friend choose fabrics for a quilt. I love doing that; it was a part of my job for the brief time I worked in a quilt shop that filled me with joy. Discovering what a person loves, what a person wants the finished quilt to do or say or be was exciting and still is. At that time, I limited myself to the designer's pattern and her hues and values while still encouraging the customer to plug in her favorite colors and her notion of light and dark was a delight. But my focus was on maintaining the integrity of the design as set forth in the pattern.
Today, my friend had more helpers than she really needed. There were too many people trying to guide her. When I realized that my hackles were being raised by someone who pointed out that the pattern had a different value in a particular area of the design than the fabric my friend was looking at lovingly, by fabrics that were perfect for the job but just dull and lifeless, I had to walk away. I knew that there was nothing wrong with what was being suggested, and the fabrics were perfectly acceptable. I was the one out of sync. (I should say here that my friend sent me a photo of the final decisions and the choices are wonderful!)
Then later in the day I purchased a watercolor magazine because the cover painting had indistinct humans (which I need to paint in the work I'm doing right now) as well as a totally different and freer, looser style than I have. As I read this magazine, I found another article on a painter who has a cubist style and who includes writing in his work, and my brain went "Sssproinggg!" like a cartoon bed spring!
What I want to do, if I can articulate it so it makes sense, is take a pattern and stretch it beyond its limits, to pull it into a different shape that has personal meaning. Think of it like a story that starts out with two girls who are going on a trip when suddenly they're a fox and a hummingbird in enchanted forest. What were their suitcases have become a Victorian music box balanced on the fox's back and a medieval chateleine around the neck of the hummingbird. Both items have magical qualities.
And I think that's what I want to do; I want to put magic in my quilts and in my paintings. I want to combine traditional blocks with poetry in such a way that the viewer decides what the story is. I would like my paintings to be less defined so that the viewer has the chance of figuring it out for herself instead of me.
Does that make any sense? Time will tell if I can do it. It's taken long enough for this to come together, and it's bound to take longer to become reality.